The introduction of the carbon tax has proven what was obvious from the beginning—that ordinary people, not big business, will be paying for a useless carbon tax.

Far from making the biggest polluters pay for their carbon emissions, the 293 companies paying are just passing on their costs.

An Australian Industry Group (AIG) survey found that 42 per cent of businesses intend to increase prices. And they’re wasting no time. Brumby’s bakery managing director Deane Priest has been forced to resign after issuing a memo urging all franchises to hike prices in June and July and “let the carbon tax take the blame.”

In Queensland Origin Energy will hit half of their customers with a $400 a year rise in electricity bills.

Origin is one of eight companies that support carbon pricing, along with energy provider AGL, and fossil fuel giants BHP Billiton, Shell and Caltex.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) have set up a “carbon tax hotline” and warned consumers to “be alert”. Two hundred complaints of price gouging on goods such as pizza, beer, taxis and gym membership were received before the carbon tax even started.

The carbon tax will make no difference to BHP Billiton, who has incorporated carbon pricing into investment decisions for years.

AGL is even expected to profit from generous government compensation along with its increased electricity prices. And their emissions will rise: Fox Business reported that AGL has used their government compensation money to purchase more of Loy Yang coal-fired power station.

Gillard’s attempt to sell the carbon tax is self-delusional. She wrote in The Australian that “Australians have a chance to see carbon pricing in action for themselves. Is it a wrecking ball, a python squeeze or is it a sensible policy to cut pollution? You decide.”

Clearly, people see a python squeeze.

The cost of living is already rising. In the past three years alone NSW electricity bills have risen by 55 per cent and are expected to rise a further 42 per cent by 2014.

Nobody believes Gillard’s claim that the average household will be better off, despite the roll out of Labor’s compensation package. A June Neilsen poll shows that only 5 per cent of people believe they will be better off under the carbon price. Fifty per cent think they will be worse off. Not surprisingly, 57 per cent oppose the carbon tax.

Dead duck

The carbon tax can only reinforce Labor’s unpopularity. And the tragedy is, it’s Abbott who is benefiting from this scenario. Abbott cares nothing for the environment, but his opportunistic argument that the carbon tax is “all economic pain, and no environmental gain” is right.

Unfortunately, The Greens have repeated Labor’s claims about the tax and have tried to claim credit for getting something done. Greens leader Christine Milne told the ABC on July 1, “we’ll soon start seeing the changes … as we see transitions out of the old fossil fuel sector.” Really? The Solar Dawn power project in Queensland has had $1.2 billion pulled by the state government and is unlikely to proceed. Another solar power station planned for Broken Hill looks like it won’t start until 2014.

Direct federal government investment could have meant a real start on renewable power and public transport. But Labor and The Greens have painted themselves in a corner arguing about a market-driven carbon tax—an argument they can’t win.

Erima Dall

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